In 1981, the year when AIDS came to international attention, Randy Shilts was employed by ‘The San Francisco Chronicle’ as the first openly gay journalist dealing with gay issues. He quickly devoted himself to reporting on the developing epidemic, trying to understand the cultural, medical and political impact of the disease on the gay community and United States society as a whole.
Extensively researched (Shilts interviewed over 1,000 people), weaving together personal stories with political and social reporting And the Band Played On is a masterpiece of investigative reporting (comparable to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood) and it led to Shilts being described as “the pre-eminent chronicler of gay life” (‘The New York Times’).
And the Band Played On was awarded the Stonewall Book Award, it became an international bestseller (translated into 7 languages) and was made into a major movie in 1993 starring Richard Gere and Ian McKellen. Randy Shilts exposed why AIDS was allowed to spread while the medical and political authorities ignored (and even denied) the threat. And the Band Played On is one of the great works of contemporary journalism, and provides the foundation for the continuing debate about the greatest medical epidemic faced in our time.
Randy Shilts saw himself as a literary journalist in the tradition of Norman Mailer and Truman Capote and was a pioneering voice in raising awareness of gay civil rights issues, as well as the AIDS crisis, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists’ Association in 1993. He found that he was HIV positive in 1987 and died in 1994. He also wrote The Mayor of Castro Street, a biography of Harvey Milk.
“A heroic work of journalism on what must rank as one of the foremost catastrophes of modern history.”
‘New York Times’
“Stunning… An impressively researched and richly detailed narrative.”
“Rivals in power and intensity, and in the brilliance of its reporting and writing, Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD.”
‘The Boston Globe’